A Brighter Future Awaits.

Yes, it’s illegal for unmarried couples to cohabitate in North Carolina

On Behalf of | Mar 8, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

The times may have changed, but North Carolina law has not. It’s still against the law for unmarried, heterosexual couples to “lewdly and lasciviously associate, bed and cohabit together.” Getting caught doing this could get you charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor, which is punishable with up to 60 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

North Carolina is one of only five states in the U.S. that still criminalizes moving in together before marriage. Florida repealed its law on the subject in 2016.

There are limits to this type of prosecution. For one thing, our “fornication and adultery” statute specifically says that the confession of one member of the couple cannot be used as evidence against the other in the case. Also, the statute doesn’t apply to platonic roommates.

Nevertheless, there have occasionally been prosecutions under the fornication statute.

Is this law even constitutional?

Maybe not. In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court called these laws into question with the case of Lawrence v. Texas. Lawrence was specifically about sodomy laws, not fornication statutes. However, its reasoning might well apply to fornication statutes. The high court ruled, essentially, that people have the constitutional right to engage in whatever private, consensual sexual activities they prefer.

Moreover, in 2006, the ACLU sued North Carolina on behalf of a woman who was prosecuted under the fornication law. They won. A Pender County Superior Court judge ruled that the law violated the federal and North Carolina constitutions. However, that ruling technically applies only in Judicial District 5.

Could I be prosecuted for moving in with my fiancé (e)?

It’s unlikely. For one thing, someone other than the two of you would have to complain to the police. And, most prosecutors have better things to do than prosecute these types of cases.

If these charges are ever filed against you, be sure to hire a law firm that will go the extra mile to ensure your rights are protected.


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